As the number of German children getting fatter increases, German officials are looking for ways to combat this trend and turning to Americans for assistance.
Not just an adult problem
Chocolate, sausages and other dietary no-nos are increasing German waistlines all around, and children are no exception. These days, about 10 percent of German children are classified as clinically obese and those numbers are rising.
"Children are eating too much and too many sweet and fatty foods," said German Minister of Food and Agriculture Renate Künast, who added that she wants to do something about it by making sure children know all about healthy eating right from kindergarten.
Meeting recently with US Secretary of State for Agriculture, Eric Bost, the two ministers unveiled plans to try to combat the epidemic. In the US, roughly 17 percent of all primary school children are classified as obese, something which many attribute to the popularity of fast food and a lack of exercise.
"(Germans) are quickly catching up with us,” said Bost.
A number one killer
Bad dietary habits -- an international problem
Disease caused by the wrong diet accounts for about one-third of all costs to Germany's health care system. In the US, obesity and lack of exercise are about to overtake smoking as the number one killer.
One joint solution is the “nutritional pyramid,” officials said. It is envisioned as an easy to understand guide to a healthy diet. They believe it is better to prevent obesity than try to cure it and the first step is to improve dietary education.
The American version of the nutritional pyramid for children is already on the internet. Visitors to the site can compile their ideal diet. Bost said he takes great pride in the initial response.
“During a 24-hour period, we had over 62 million hits to the Internet site,” he said.
Many measures needed
Setting a bad example
Künast hopes for a similar outcome. She has just written a book called the “Fat Maker” and feels there is still a lot to do.
“We need to introduce a whole host of measures, in all areas of life, from kindergarten to primary school through to secondary school, and from urban development to the development of new foods,” she said.
Schools are the main focus of the campaign. Künast wants children to learn how to prepare healthy meals. But the food industry is by no means absolved of blame or responsibility. The minister wants it to cooperate by thinking carefully about their products and making sure their advertisements are completely honest about ingredients and their fat content.